Dyslexia Myths and Facts
Myth 1: Dyslexics form a special and identifiable (diagnosable) category of poor readers.
Facts: There is no scientifically valid way of differentiating 'dyslexics' from other poor readers. What was for a great length of time the most used definition of dyslexia ('IQ discrepancy' where reading age was considerably lower than IQ would predict) was discredited a long time ago. No operational definition has appeared to take its place. As there is, presently, no infallible way of separating the 'dyslexics' out as a special group, either ALL who have a persistent difficulty accurately decoding and encoding single words are dyslexic (correct in the descriptive sense) or none are  -see What is dyslexia?

Myth 2: This is the BIG one; dyslexia is a specific brain defect; an incurable neurological difficulty with phonemic awareness and analysis (PA: the ability to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes; the smallest perceptible speech sounds).
Facts: Phoneme sensitivity is innate as all babies need it in order to acquire spoken language, but they are not consciously aware of this ability. Humans are not biologically 'wired' to be consciously aware of the phoneme level of speech and the natural unit of speech perception and production is the syllable. PA is ''not an outcome of cognitive maturation or exposure to language'' (Rice/Brooks p54).
PA is essential for learning to read and spell if a writing system uses an alphabetic code, but not if a different writing system (syllabic or diphonic) is used. Studies,''show the strong impact of the type of writing system and type of instruction on the development of phonemic awareness -an environmental effect, and restates the point that you do not acquire this aptitude unless you need it'' (D.McGuinness WCCR p135).
Whilst a minority do develop a good level of PA seemingly effortlessly, acquiring the alphabetic code and skills through a lucky combination of nature and nurture, most pupils need to receive direct and systematic synthetic phonics instruction (working with sounds and spellings at the level of the phoneme) in order to become fully proficient in this area. ''Phoneme analysis sufficient to be able to decode is acquired much more rapidly in the context of print than in isolation'' (D.McGuinness. Response to Hulme).
As a consequence of normal genetic variation (''the ability to access the phoneme level of speech is heritable...on a continuum of innate ability'' D.McGuinness WCCR p151), early hearing problems or faulty initial teaching of reading some children find learning to hear, identify and manipulate the individual phonemes rather more difficult than the majority of the population. The opaque English alphabet code will exacerbate their difficulties if it is taught through mixed methods. Fortunately, advanced synthetic phonics whole-class and intervention programmes have been specially designed to render the English alphabet code transparent for all those learning to read and spell.

Myth 3: Children who fail to learn how to decode and encode single words accurately from conventional classroom instruction (multi-clue decoding strategies and leveled books are still used by 90% of primary teachers in England (NFER 2014)) and continue to fail, despite being subjected to one or several (Response to Intervention) analytic phonics or Reading Recovery type interventions, are 'phonetically deaf' and 'treatment resisters'. They can, at last, be legitimately labelled as dyslexic. For information on Reading Recovery, its clones and other ineffective interventions see http://www.dyslexics.org.uk/room_101.htm
Facts: Unless the child is profoundly deaf, mute, or grossly mentally disabled the most likely reason why they can't decode or spell is dysdidaxia (a problem with the teaching) (Macmillan p134). ''We know that the intellectual crippling of children is caused overwhelmingly by faulty instruction -not by faulty children'' (Engelmann&Carnine 1982.Theory of instruction). ''(F)ailure to read is often to do with the nature of the teaching rather than the nature of the child'' (Rose 2009 p60)
''The Response to Intervention framework was devised as an alternative to the discredited IQ /Achievement Discrepancy “Model” for the designation of “Learning Disability.” Schools and teachers find the newer “Model” attractive because it takes the “problem kids” out of mainstream instruction while sustaining present instructional practices and maintaining the turf of psychologists and “Special Education” specialists. Parents find it attractive because the children involved are receiving increased personal and specialized instructional attention. By the time a child has gone through Tier 3 [England.Wave 3], the child, parents, and school personnel are thoroughly convinced that the child has a “disability.” The tragedy/travesty is that the “problem” the child had when first identified as “at risk” has morphed into a “really big problem” for which the child bears the full responsibility'' (Prof.Schutz)
'Phonetically deaf' children don't exist in schools that teach high quality synthetic phonics from day one: at St George's primary school in Wandsworth, London, an area of high deprivation, all the children have reached the expected standard in the phonics decoding check 6 years in a row and all the children in Y1 and Y2 (2018) spell at CA or better.

Myth 4: The prevalence of dyslexia is estimated to be somewhere between 4%- 8% of the UK population (Rose 2009 p11) and 1 in 5 (20%) in the USA.
Facts: ''Any attempt to determine the prevalence of dyslexia should be treated with caution'' (Miles p27).''In the absence of a definition that provides unequivocal identification criteria, all statements about prevalence are guesses; they are value judgements, not scientific facts...The British Dyslexia Association's prevalence estimates of either 4 per cent for severe dyslexia or 10 per cent to include mild dyslexia have been described as both theoretically and technically contentious'' (Rice/Brooks p19-20)
All that can be said with any certainty is that in every English-speaking country a significant percentage of the population have single word decoding and spelling difficulties varying from mild through to severe.

Myth 5: Those who have been 'professionally' diagnosed as having 'specific learning difficulties consistent with dyslexia' need a special sort of intervention which is different from that deemed suitable for 'ordinary/common garden' poor readers. Furthermore, this special instruction should only be delivered by qualified teachers who have undertaken a long and expensive training course which has been approved and accredited (and often provided) by one of the powerful dyslexia lobby groups **
Facts: Having thoroughly checked the government's use of evidence in policy-making on dyslexia, the UK Parliament's Science &Technology committee concluded that, ''The government should stop talking about specialist dyslexia teaching. Children diagnosed with dyslexia and children who struggle with reading for other reasons, are taught how to read in exactly the same way''. The committee also said that, ''(T)he Government should be more independently minded in the formulation of dyslexia policy: priorities appear to be based on pressures from lobby groups rather than on research'' (S&T committee pressnotice 18/12/09)
Whatever their age or IQ, students who have serious difficulties with single word decoding and spelling need intensive, one-to-one synthetic phonics instruction see- What NOT to do.

Myth 6: Dyslexics don't just have very slow and inaccurate reading and spelling; other signs are used to identify dyslexia such as poor short-term memory, sequencing problems and rapid naming deficits (RAN). The number and type of co-occurring difficulties vary from one dyslexic person to another, as does the severity.
Facts: These are 'soft' signs - not based on data that is readily quantifiable or amenable to experimental verification. ''Forget about letter reversals, clumsiness, inconsistent hand preference and poor memory - these are commonly found in people without reading difficulties, and in poor readers not considered to be dyslexic'' (Elliott .TES) ''(D)yslexia has been linked erroneously to left-handedness, balance deficits, persistence of infant reflexes, visual perceptual abnormalities and nutritional deficiencies'' (Snowling. BDA website news17)
''The fact that RAN (rapid automatic naming tasks) using digits and letters predict reading so much better than RAN colours and objects do, means that naming speed per se is not a factor in learning to read.'' (D.McGuinness LDLR p388) ''Naming objects and colours is a truer reflection of natural or biological based ability'' (D. McGuinness WCCR p131)
Many so-called dyslexia symptoms such as b/d confusion and word reversal are simply the consequence of poor teaching and lack of practice.

Myth 7: Dyslexia is caused by inherited, faulty genes with evidence coming from studies of twins.
Facts: As there is no operational definition of dyslexia it is not possible to find 'dyslexics' for a scientifically valid study. This means that the results of all the heritability studies and genetic models of dyslexia are invalid; ‘'The twin studies leave a lot to be desired, starting with the identification of their subject 'dyslexics'. Most such work is done with the University of Colorado and their Prof. Olsen has recently (after the IQ-achievement criterion died) stated that the bottom x% of the bell curve of reading ability can be considered 'dyslexic’ and this is great because 'if we deploy the bell curve of normal distribution we can bring the big guns of statistics to bear'. This is outrageous, of course. The bottom x% are not to be presumed all to have the same neurological deficit (or any at all) with no demonstration of same'' (Kerr. RRF message board 29/09/09).
laims to link a complex, learned behaviour that has to be taught (not part of species specific trait) to a gene complex, can only be bogus. ''Thus, contrary to what practitioners may sometimes suppose, family relationship (familiarity) alone is not a reliable indicator of genetic heritability'' (Rice/Brooks p32)
In English-speaking countries where, every year, at least 20% of children leave school functionally illiterate, nearly everyone has a relative (or several) who failed to learn to read.

Myth 8: Dyslexia is a visual problem - dyslexics see words backwards, letters reversed or moving around.
Facts: Prof. Vellutino showed this was incorrect when he ''asked dyslexic and non dyslexic American children to re-produce Hebrew letters none of them had seen before... the poor readers performed as well as the normal readers in reproducing Hebrew letters from memory...Absolutely no differences between the two groups. If anything the normal readers made more errors than the poor readers, so the poor readers could see the materials as well as the normal readers'' (Mills. The Dyslexia Myth)
''Teams from Bristol and Newcastle universities carried out eye tests on more than 5,800 children and did not find any differences in the vision of those with dyslexia...Where there were dyslexic children with eye problems, the occurrence was no more likely than for non-dyslexics, the study found. And a large majority of dyslexic children were defined as having "perfect vision" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32836733
A subset of this myth is that 'dyslexics' can be helped by providing them with reading materials printed using a special 'Dyslexie' font on tinted paper. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/dys.1527

Myth 9: fMRI brain scan studies show that dyslexics' brains work differently from those of non-dyslexics.
Facts: In addition to the impossibility of finding true 'dyslexics' for a scientifically valid study, ''The recent studies using fMRI, convincingly show what everybody who knows anything about the brain can tell you, that when someone can't read, images of his brain taken while he is trying to read will look different to someone who can read. Furthermore, when the poor reader is taught to read, the patterns of his brain metabolism will look identical to someone who can!'' (D.McGuinness. Response to Hulme)
''(T)here is a mistaken belief that current knowledge in [genetics and neuroscience] is sufficient to justify a category of dyslexia as a subset of those who encounter reading difficulties'' (Elliott/Gibbs p475)

Myth 10: The planum temporale area of the brain is 'abnormally symmetrical' in dyslexics.
Facts: This claim is based on the dissection of just a small number of brains taken from people previously diagnosed as 'dyslexic'. The lack of an infallible definition for dyslexia, along with the tiny number of research subjects, makes this study's conclusions scientifically invalid. ''35 percent of the population have symmetrical brains. Symmetry is not pathology''. (D.McGuinness WCCR p118)

Myth 11: Short-term memory deficit is a hallmark of dyslexia (NTF.p6)
Facts: Poor short-term memory ''is the symptom most often quoted as distinguishing dyslexics from other poor readers, and those who have difficulty reading are more likely to suffer from it. Yet, however disabling poor short-term memory may be, evidence suggests it neither causes reading difficulties nor predicts the outcome of intervention. In a highly regarded study conducted by Joseph Torgesen, a psychologist at the University of Florida, out of 60 children with severe reading difficulties, only eight had poor short-term memories, while almost as many – seven – had very good short-term memories'' (David Mills.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/3347022/Dyslexia-a-big-expensive-myth.html)

Myth 12: Dyslexia is an incurable brain defect. It ''will not go away with tuition, practice, hard work etc'' (Klein quoted in Kerr p113)
Facts: ''Shaywitz and others in the Connecticut Longitudinal Study followed children to see if the discrepancy diagnosis of dyslexia was constant from one grade to another. 25 children were diagnosed dyslexic in first grade and 31 in grade 3, but only 7 were classified as dyslexic in both grades. Of the 24 children classified as dyslexic at fifth grade, only 14 were also dyslexic in third grade'' (D.McGuinness. WCCR p136-7).
If struggling decoders are given expert synthetic phonics tuition early enough (large differences in reading practice [can] begin to emerge as early as the middle of the first-grade year (Stanovich p 162) in their education, their 'dyslexia' (persistent difficulty accurately decoding single words) will 'go away'. Sadly, unless phonics tutoring is put into place extremely quickly, along with complete cessation of decoding through multi-cueing, the negative side effects of early mal-instruction such as the 'bad habit' of guessing and a dislike of reading and writing are likely to persist and fluency is unlikely to ever be achieved. If newly taught knowledge and skills are not practised extensively they are bound to erode too.

Myth 13: Dyslexics are compensated for their apparent lack of phonemic awareness ability by being naturally gifted in the creative / visual-spatial sphere. In his book 'David and Goliath' Gladwell describes dyslexia as ''a desirable difficulty'' whilst multi-millionaire chef Jamie Oliver thinks that ''children with dyslexia are 'lucky''.
Facts: Comforting though this idea may be, it is simply 'opinion bolstered by anecdote'.
''Being unable to read is not a gift, not a superpower and sending this message of dyslexics being special is really unhelpful'' (Amanda, parent of a 'dyslexic' child. Twitter)
Entrepreneur Guy Hands, founder and chairman of one of the largest private equity firms in Europe, has severe dyslexia. He ''hates people who say "dyslexia is no bad thing, look at all the famous people who have got it". He will not shirk from saying: "I really wish I could read" (Observer. 13/01/08)
In his book '
Language at the Speed of Sight' p178-185, Prof. Seidenberg analyses Gladwell’s assertion that dyslexia could be ''a desirable difficulty”.
The late Martin Turner, formerly head of psychology at Dyslexia Action, said that it was a 'travesty' to talk about dyslexia as a bonus when it caused such suffering. ''It's a myth that there are compensatory gifts. Dyslexics go into the visual arts like sheep head for a gap in the hedge. They aren't more creative, they are more stressed.'' (Jardine) In a review of the research on dyslexia, Dr. Rice and Professor Brooks came to the same conclusion. ''On anecdotal evidence, the belief that ‘difficulty in learning to read is not a wholly tragic life sentence but is often accompanied by great talents' may seem attractive. However, systematic investigation has found little if any support for it.'' (Rice/ Brooks p18)
The late 'dyslexic' journalist AA Gill confirmed this view when he wrote, ''In truth, of course, dyslexics end up in the art room or the music studio or the drama class after school, because it’s the only place they aren’t special-needs remedial. They get good because they can’t do anything else.'' (Times 08/04/07 The Fish Club) Gill wrote about dyslexia in his book 'AA Gill Is Further Away' after a conversation with Prof. Julian Elliott (author of The Dyslexia Debate).
When researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested 'the hypotheses that those with reading disability are compensated with enhanced creativity', they found that, ''Stronger reading was in fact linked to higher creativity, controlling for IQ'' http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S104160801300040X
More recently, researchers in Chile explored the links between reading skills and creativity. Their findings did ''not support the hypothesis that specific reading disability is associated with better performance on creative tasks'' http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9314276&fileId=S1138741614000596

Myth 14: Dyslexia can be accurately diagnosed by an educational psychologist or a 'specialist dyslexia teacher' using special tests.
Facts: No scientifically valid tests are available that can differentiate dyslexics from other poor readers; ''After three decades as an educationalist, first as a teacher of children with learning difficulties, then as an educational psychologist and, latterly, as an academic who has reviewed the educational literature, I have little confidence in myself (or others') ability to offer a diagnosis of dyslexia.'' (Elliott. TES)
ecause of their inability to give a legitimate diagnosis (there is no legal definition of dyslexia in England Singleton p16) a specialist dyslexia teacher or educational psychologist's written report is very unlikely to include the concrete label of dyslexia. Instead, it will substitute words such as, 'has a specific weakness in phonological development', or it will be hedged about with words that avoid commitment to a definitive diagnosis; 'exhibited a pattern of difficulties characteristic of dyslexia', 'has a dyslexic profile' or 'is at risk for Dyslexia-SpLD' with the discrete 'dyslexia' label only given to parents verbally. See 'Should I have my Child Assessed?'

Myth 15: Dyslexia can be found world-wide.
Facts: In countries which have a transparent code and synthetic phonic teaching methods (e.g, Austria, Finland and Greece (The Science of Reading. Philip Seymour p299)) it is rare to find people who are very slow and very inaccurate word decoders i.e. dyslexic in the English-speaking world's sense of the word. English reading tests commonly assess accuracy of single word decoding but, because of the high word reading accuracy in countries with transparent codes, these tests are not used and reading fluency (speed and comprehension) is assessed instead i.e. the term dyslexia means something completely different in these countries (RRF49 D.McGuinness. p19 & The Science of Reading. Philip Seymour p297) ''If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%'' (Stringer).

Myth 16: It is possible to properly diagnose dyslexia in countries with transparent codes by testing students' reading speed, because those with this specific brain weakness, despite being accurate word decoders, find reading effortful and slow.
Facts: ''Reading speed isn't an isolated skill. It's a function of decoding accuracy, text difficulty and general language ability'' (D.McGuinness GRB p14) 'Slow reading' is relative; the optimal reading rate varies across writing systems. ''Slowness''..is a function of the writing system, not a property of the child'' (D.McGuinness ERI p191-2)

Myth 17: Dyslexia can be cured or helped by special balancing exercises, fish-oils, glasses with tinted lenses, vision exercises, listening to modified music, NLP magical spelling, modelling clay words, inner-ear-improving medications, training primitive reflexes, eye occlusion (patching), special fonts, rhyme-analogy games....
Empirical evidence does not support the use of any of the above remedies - see Room 101

SEN Magazine (no.49. Nov/Dec 2010) - scroll down to read Susan's article:
'Six myths about dyslexia' www.rrf.org.uk/docs/SEN49_Dyslexia_myths.pdf

Prof. Julian Elliott:
The dyslexia debate: some key myths

Report on British Dyslexia Association Courses for Reading and Spelling -includes comparison with synthetic phonics course content: http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Report%20BDA%20Training%202012.pdf

** BDA: ''Specialist dyslexia teaching: an umbrella term for approaches that are used by teachers who have attained accredited specialist qualifications in the teaching of children and adults with dyslexia. Training courses are accredited by the British Dyslexia Association'' (Rose 2009 p199)
Patoss: The Professional Association of Teachers of Students with SpLD ''(O)nly those who have passed a BDA accredited course can become specialist members of this professional association'' (Rose 2009 p95)
Dyslexia Action went into administration in 2017. It no longer offers student assessments or tutoring. It continues to provide ''training for teachers to become specialist dyslexia teachers'' (Rose 2009 p190)  
Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre: ''The Centre offers training to professionals who wish to develop their skills in addressing dyslexia -including training to become a specialist dyslexia teacher'' (Rose 2009 p193)